The EOS RP combines a large sensor, simple interface and excellent JPEG color, making it easy to shoot in even the most unexpected situation.
24-105mm F4L IS | F4.5 | 1/80sec | ISO 3200

I got a chance to shoot with the EOS RP just before its launch and my impression is that it's a much better, and potentially more significant, camera than its specifications reveal.

If you've only seen the specs, it'd be easy to dismiss the RP out-of-hand. The sensor from the 6D Mark II isn't going to go down as one of Canon's better efforts: 1080 video and fairly limited dynamic range rather undermine the considerable appeal of Dual Pixel AF. Surely if it's just that old chip, in the midst of a stripped-down version of the slightly underwhelming EOS R body, it's not even worth taking seriously?

Canon EOS RP Key Specifications

  • 26.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS sensor
  • 4K/24p (from 1.7x crop region)
  • 4 fps continuous shooting with continuous AF (5 without)
  • Pupil detection AF in continous/Servo AF mode
  • AF rated to -5EV
  • Digic 8 processor
  • 2.36M dot OLED viewfinder
  • Fully-articulated 1.04M dot touchscreen
  • Twin command dials

Having spent a little time shooting with it, I think that's premature. It's not going to win any awards for technical performance but I'm going to argue that the RP is more than the apparent sum of its parts. In a mirrorless format, the dependable performance of Dual Pixel AF plays a greater role than it does in the 6D II. The RP can also shoot 4K (albeit only from a crop). But there are three things that stood out to me about the RP: firstly, it has much of what the EOS R did well, but less of what it got wrong. Secondly, it gains the excellent beginner-friendly interface from the recent Rebel cameras. And finally, it's really, really well priced.

History repeating?

Just over 15 years ago, Canon introduced the EOS Digital Rebel (EOS 300D to most of those outside North America): the first sub-$1000 DSLR. And, even at launch, the company predicted '[it] will be seen as the point in history when the SLR market shifted irrevocably to digital.'

An awful lot has changed since the 300D's launch, including both the predicted switch to digital and a subsequent (and similarly irreversible) shift away from standalone cameras to smartphones. But, while no camera maker is talking about the '400-500% growth' in, well, anything really, there is a market that most companies are expecting to grow: full frame.

The twin command dials on the top of the camera set it aside from the Rebel series of mass-market DSLRs, but there's a hint of the same spirit in the interface and Canon's pricing.

The EOS RP looks like Canon's attempt to repeat the same trick. At $1300 body-only it is, by some $400, the cheapest ever full-frame camera at launch. And, perhaps tellingly, its MSRP is comparable with the Digital Rebel if you take inflation into account ($900 in 2003 dollars would now be within $75 of the RP's launch price).

The EOS RP's launch price is comparable to the original Digital Rebel's, if you take inflation into account

Of course the downside is that there was a $100 kit zoom option for the Rebel, whereas the only options for the RP are to pay an extra $700 for an EF-mount 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 lens and adapter, or $1100 for the RF-mount 24-105mm F4L IS, which rather reduces its 'full-frame for the masses' appeal. (Though, in a rather unusual move, Canon USA is immediately offering discounts on some of those bundles).

In the hand

Despite looking pretty similar to the EOS R, as soon as you pick it up you notice how much smaller and lighter the RP is. It doesn't have the heavy solidity of the R but still confers the familiar rugged plastic feel of a high-end Rebel, or even the EOS 77D. Better still, it retains the two command dials from the EOS R (one on the top of the camera, just behind the shutter button, the second on the rear shoulder). This immediately makes it a camera where it's easy to play around with your main exposure parameters, taking it out of Rebel territory.

There's an optional add-on riser for the EOS RP. Note also the ability to flip the screen in towards the body: making it easier to keep the screen safe if you've got the camera stuffed in a bag to keep with you.

There's an optional add-on plate that adds a bit more depth to the camera if you find your little finger extending awkwardly off the bottom of the front grip. I didn't find any advantage to it, personally, but I know that several other people at the launch event did. It comes in a choice of colors (the version with the red accents goes nicely with the red ring on the RF 24-105, I reckon), and it's been designed so that you can still access the battery and SD card with it attached, thanks to a hatch the size of a car door.

Even with the optional grip extension, you can still access the battery and SD card. Note that the knurled nut that screws the extension into the tripod socket itself has a tripod socket, keeping everything on the optical axis.

The viewfinder spec is dropped a little, compared with the 'R.' The RP's display offers the same 2.36M dots as the Sony a7 III, and it's nice enough to shoot with even if it isn't as detailed as its big brother. Like the EOS R, the rear screen (or a subdivision of it) can act as an AF touchpad, and that's definitely the easiest way to set focus. And, unlike any of its immediate peers, the rear screen is fully articulated, flipping out to the side for waist-level, low angle or video shooting.

Other changes over the EOS R include the ability to use Pupil Detection AF and small point AF in continuous (Servo) autofocus mode. That might sound like a small thing but it means I could mostly just stick to Face + Tracking (+ eye) mode most of the time, rather than having to jump back and forth between area modes when I switched between single and continuous AF.

Eye AF Performance

One thing I suspect a lot of people will want to know is 'how well does Eye AF work?' Several brands now offer some form of eye detection AF, but it's the implementation in the recent Sony models that has really impressed us. Once you've got used to the ability to just look at your subject, your framing and their expression, without having to give any thought to focus, it's hard to go back to a camera that isn't as easy to use.

The EOS RP's eye detection might not be quite as uncannily good as the recent Sony implementation, but it was still able to find and retain my subject's right eye in this shot, despite it being partially obscured.
EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM | F4 | 1/125sec | ISO 640

My initial thoughts are mixed: the Canon implementation isn't as responsive in finding a subject's eye: it's quick but hasn't got the same uncanny 'I hadn't even realized they were looking towards the camera' immediacy as the latest Sonys. Equally, the RP seems slightly more prone to temporarily losing eyes and either reverting to Face Detection or grabbing the person's other eye. Overall the RP is good at finding eyes and focusing on them without any user intervention (or need to hold down a function button). It also lets you use the four-way controller to choose between the left and right eye (though only if it's recognized both eyes).

I'll need to check through all the images I shot to ensure that Eye AF has focused as well as I'd like, but from a usability point of view, it's a valuable addition, particularly on a camera that's intended to be accessible and user-friendly.

Ease-of-use

On the subject of ease-of-use, the camera has some of the feature guides Canon has been including on its recent EOS-M and Rebel models. These help try to explain when to use Aperture Priority mode, rather than Shutter Priority mode, for instance. And, in Creative Assist mode there's an outcome-orientated touchscreen system for adjusting parameters such as image brightness. Sadly it doesn't have the interface from the T7i that shows you to turn the command dial to get shallower depth-of-field, helping to teach you how to use the camera.

The RP takes the logic of Creative Assist one step further by offering a results-focused interface for its in-camera Raw processing mode. So, rather than being confronted with a slew of icons with perhaps obscure names such as 'Len aberr correction' it gives you the option to make the image brighter or darker, or to make it warmer or cooler. Just as with 'Feature Assistant' the more complex options are still available, but you access them through the menu, rather than encountering them directly from Playback mode.

The camera's AF tracking mode isn't faultless, but it stayed focused on this flower's stigma as I recomposed, making it easy to grab a shot with focus exactly where I wanted it.
24-105mm F4L IS | F4 | 1/320sec | ISO 100

This simple reprocessing mode, along with the pretty robust-feeling Bluetooth-mediated Wi-Fi system used across recent Canons, should make it about as easy as possible to shoot high quality images then transfer them to your phone. Canon has also made an iPad version of its Digital Photo Professional software, to allow processing of the camera's CR3 Raws without ever having to go back to your computer.

Disappointing DR, joyous JPEGs

Having talked so much about ease-of-use, it's pretty clear who Canon has built the RP for. The kinds of users who shoot Raw to provide the maximum processing flexibility aren't likely to be impressed if there's as much noise lurking in the deep shadows as there was on the 6D Mark II. But for anyone shooting JPEGs (or re-processing their Raws within the constraints of the camera's JPEG engine) the RP will be able to produce really good images, with attractive color and the tonal quality and depth-of-field control that full-frame can bring.

And, even if dynamic range isn't class-leading, the 6D Mark II's low light performance is beyond reproach.

The EOS RP won't be the first choice for committed videoheads but it shoots pleasant images and brings the low light capability, depth-of-field control and tonal quality that full frame can offer.
24-105mm F4L IS | F6.3 | 1/100sec | ISO 1600

The camera's middling video capability (4K/24p from a 1.7x crop) is the other obvious shortcoming in the camera's specifications. It's a step up from the 6D Mark II, but still not much to crow about. But still, having spent most of my time focused on stills shooting, I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions just yet. The slow, contrast detection autofocus in 4K mode isn't very promising, though.

Battery life from the EOS M50-style LP-E17 isn't anything special, either (I'd guessed around a 220 shot-per charge CIPA rating, based on half-a-day's use: it's actually 250). This means you're likely to get a day's casual shooting and rather longer if you're just taking shots here and there, and photography isn't your main focus. The camera charges pretty quickly over USB-C, so you can gain some flexibility by having some kind of power bank and appropriate cable with you if you're going to be away from the mains for a while.

Is it enough?

Of course, despite the impressively low launch price, the RP isn't without competition. Sony's habit of keeping older models in its lineup, then continually dropping the price means you can currently get an a7 II for around $1000 and an original a7 with lens for the same money. But, for all the apparent technical limitations, I think a lot of people might choose the Canon's more accessible shooting experience and attractive JPEGs over what now look like Sony's works-in-progress models.


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